Best Colleges and Universities for Criminal Justice Degrees

The best criminal justice degree programs are those with rich histories of influence, proven through the work produced by the program’s faculty and alumni. Beyond demonstrating scholarly impact in the field, the best criminal justice degree programs maximize your opportunities to interact with outstanding criminal justice faculty.

Best Colleges and Universities for Criminal Justice Degrees

A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice is an excellent starting point for a career in policing, corrections, homeland security, and a host of other important roles related to crime, justice, and public safety. As a criminal justice major, you’ll study three primary subject areas—law enforcement, corrections, and the courts. Majoring in criminal justice is a good starting point if you plan to study policing, law, administration of justice, counter-terrorism, and more. You’ll study related subjects including criminal psychology, rehabilitation, and sociology. And if you’re interested in eventually going to law school and becoming a practicing attorney, majoring in criminal justice could be a good starting point. A degree in criminal justice will give you the knowledge and qualifications to contribute to public safety, national security, social justice, and a host of other related fields.

Degree popularity: Criminal justice bachelor’s degrees are the 16th most popular undergraduate degrees across all student demographics. It is slightly more popular among men. Crimianl justice degrees rank 6th among Black men, 8th for Black women, 8th among Hispanic men, and 15th for Hispanic women, according to the number of degree earners reported by the National Center for Educational Statistics.

Frequently Asked Questions About Criminal Justice Bachelor’s Degrees

Earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice can open numerous professional doors. As noted above, the study of criminal justice is divided into three key areas: law enforcement, corrections, and the court system. Within each of these areas, there are countless avenues to a career. Whether you wish to work in a police precinct, for the Department of Homeland Security, as part of a private security firm, as a private detective, or in a specialized field like the prevention of cybercrime, majoring in criminal justice can help you get there.

Today, top influencers in Criminal Justice are working on felon disenfranchisement, place-based criminology, alternative drug policies, and much more.

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Criminal justice is a popular major because it can provide pathways into countless fields and career opportunities. If you’re looking for a well-paying and secure job, a criminal justice degree is a great place to start. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2019, the average median pay for police officers and detectives was $65,170. For Detectives and Criminal Investigators, that figure was $81,920 in 2018. And if you parlay your criminal justice major into a postgraduate law degree, note that lawyers, in 2019, earned a well-above-average median pay of $122,960.

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Once you’ve declared your major in criminal justice, you will likely be required to complete a set of core courses in a number of related subject areas. While your concentration will give you a chance to choose from a wide range of highly-specialized criminal justice electives, there are a number of common courses that most Criminal justice majors will be required to take, including:

  • Introduction to Criminology
  • International Law
  • Criminal Psychology
  • Race and the State
  • Comparative Criminal Law
  • Big Data and Surveillance
  • Transformative Justice
  • Capital Punishment in America

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With a degree in criminal justice, you could qualify for an array of opportunities in law enforcement, security, forensics, counter-terrorism, corrections, and much more. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) identifies the following top jobs in criminal justice:

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Best Colleges and Universities for Criminal Justice Degree Programs

Frequently Asked Questions About Research Universities, Liberal Arts Colleges, Online Colleges

In pursuing a bachelor’s degree, you will need to choose between three kinds of schools: research universities, liberal arts colleges, and online colleges.

Research universities are colleges and universities whose faculty are active in research and publishing. These schools offer a wide array of doctoral programs, especially in the sciences. They tend to be big, with tens of thousands of students.

Do you prefer a larger university setting, such as largest public university in your state? Research universities are typically big, offering degrees in many different disciplines. Is a big high-powered research environment the thing for you. If not, you should think about a liberal arts college. In deciding on an undergraduate institution, ask yourself what sort of environment will best help you to be happy and excel.

  • Consider whether you are self motivated enough to be a face in the crowd for some classes and largely unknown on campus at a large university. Of course you can find clubs and friends at a large university, but often liberal arts colleges have a more personal quality to them. If you want the community feel, a research university may not fit you well.
  • Are you interested in STEM fields? Research universities have that name for a reason – real research is happening there. This can create an exciting atmosphere for students interested in STEM. Attending a research university can give you a better chance of getting into better programs for graduate degrees, although a lot of that depends on your performance.

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Often referred to as “teaching colleges” liberal arts colleges put a premium on undergraduate studies and offers a broad range of subjects for students to study. A college of liberal arts typically provides smaller class sizes, more direct engagement with professors, and, most importantly, the opportunity to sample a wide range of subject areas on the way to a bachelor’s degree.

  • Do you want your professors to know you? Liberal arts colleges strive to cultivate campus cultures that encourage tight bonds between professors and students. Professors at these schools will typically conduct original research. Yet the best of these schools offer their faculty reduced teaching loads so that they can both be productive researchers and still have plenty of time for students (both in and outside the classroom).
  • Do you want to feel like you know everybody? One of the most enticing features of a liberal arts college is that in very little time, you can feel like you know who’s who, which can create strong friendships, but also more pleasurable walks across campus. While your sports teams may never be on ESPN, it’s more likely that you’ll know the athletes as your peers. Beyond student and faculty relationships, it’s not unusual for the school president and other administrators to learn who you are. When faced with problems with your student account or the need to switch classes, this can be comforting during a stressful moment.

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Online colleges are typically the same colleges and universities you could attend in-person, but for certain degree programs the college or unviersity has made the degree programs available to be completed online. For over 5 million students, online degree programs allow students to earn their degrees in the most flexible format available. Online degrees are as respected as the on-campus degress you could earn from the same schools. There’s usually no disctinction between the two degrees, and your degree and transcript will not say that the degree was earned online. Online degree programs are offered by a vast majority of colleges and universities, and the number of offering continues to grow. Whehter you are searching for an associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate, there’s a good chance you can earn your degree online from a respectable online college.

  • Are you a self-driven student? Perhaps the hardest aspect of obtaining an online degree is whether you will be disciplined enough to manage your time and course demands. Many online students report that online college made them more disciplined in all areas of their lives, but the flexible, self-paced learning that makes online colleges attractive can often be the same qualities that make it difficult. If you tend to be a procrastinator, you need to be honest with yourself. You can change your habits and propensities, or you can throw money down the drain.
  • Do you need the flexibility of an online degree program? Most online students study online because of time demands balancing work and life, or becuase the online colleges afford them the chance to attend a better school without moving. If you are serious about earning your degree for career advancement, online colleges make it possible. The most flexible options among online degrees are those that are aynchronous, meaning you don’t have scheduled times to meet with your class online. However, many students seek synchronous online degree programs so that they have some structure – set meeting times, scheduled exams, etc.
  • The good news is that attending an online college doesn’t mean you will miss out on getting to know your professors and classmates. In fact, many online students who have experienced both online and on-campus courses report having easier access to their professors. Since most communication with your professor is expected to be in text – via email or your class learning management system – it makes asking your questions easier. The same students also report that they got to better know the thoughts of their classmates. While in-person course conversations can be dominated by a few extroverts, online courses that require online discussions make it so that you see all of your classmates’ thoughts and questions.

If you interested in an online bachelor’s degree, check out what the best online colleges offer, or search our online degrees for the exact program that interests you. In either case, you will find well respected colleges and universities that offer online degrees.

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The Best Colleges and Universities for Criminal Justice Degrees

Best Criminal Justice Major Research Universities

  1. University of Florida
  2. University of Washington
  3. Boston University
  4. Florida State University
  5. Boston College

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Best Criminal Justice Major Liberal Arts Colleges

  1. John Jay College of Criminal Justice
  2. College of the Ozarks
  3. Southern University at New Orleans
  4. San Francisco State University
  5. California State University, Long Beach

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Best Criminal Justice Major Online Colleges

  1. Florida State University
  2. Sam Houston State University
  3. University of Cincinnati
  4. Portland State University
  5. University of Central Florida

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The Best Criminal Justice Schools in Your State

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